Television viewers and newspaper readers following the political scene in Egypt may have been struck by the most recent spate of violence involving pro-President Morsi Muslim Brotherhood followers who launched a brutal attack on peaceful demonstrators which left five dead and hundreds injured.
What happened? What went wrong? The truth of the matter is that any reading of the recent political thinking from the Muslim Brotherhood (forget about the public relations interviews) suggests that this is just the beginning. The worst is yet to come. In case some are wondering whether this is too gloomy, please note that all the evidence we have suggests some of the predictions below (number 4-9) are already coming to life.
Here are my predictions:
1: The Muslim Brotherhood, supported by other Islamist factions, will secure the needed majority vote for passing the constitution- even when all non-Islamist political forces boycott the referendum. We will see a repeat of the referendum on the proposed amendments to the constitution that we witnessed in March 2011, in which the Brothers (and other Islamists) mobilized a Muslim majority poor population to mark the green circle if they loved their religion (green being symbolic of Islam) and black if they wanted to follow the infidels and their religious leaders (Christian Orthodox priests in Egypt wear a black turban-like head gear).
2: The Brothers and the Salafis will win the parliamentary elections which will be neither free or fair, as religion will be used instrumentally to the maximum effect, propped up by welfare services and backed by direct vote purchasing. However, the parliamentary elections will meet the West’s satisfaction of being a milestone onto democracratization because the Islamists would have won via the ballot boxes.
3: The new parliament will issue legislation of a political nature that enables further monopolisation of power into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. It will also issue legislation of an ideological nature to deepen the Islamization of state and society by introducing new laws and revoking old ones, all under the banner of endorsing Shariah-compliance.
4. There will be a “cleansing” of the judiciary of all elements within it that are not friendly to the Muslim Brotherhood regime. This will be achieved through so-called constitutional and legal means. Instead, new graduates of Shariah school from Al-Azhar University (one of the Sunni world’s largest establishments) will be appointed as judges in their hundreds. Gradually, women judges will either be appointed to administrative non- judicial tasks or they will be “encouraged” to take up early retirement
5. The margin of separation between the executive, the judicial and the legislative will narrow increasingly, such that there will be a synchronization of agendas to endorse the Islamist state. Facilitating and catalyzing such a merger will be led by the new class of ulama (religious scholars) who will play a more behind-the-scenes role at first, beginning but that will become increasingly open afterwards.
6. The opposition and its key leaders will be subject to intense vilification (and possibly tried) for being antagonistic towards the implementation of God’s laws and being disrespectful towards the Muslim ruler. Eventually the more confrontational leftist political parties will be dissolved under the premise that their normative framework is in defiance with the Shariah.
7. Women’s rights will shrink considerably. More young girls will be given in marriage before or in early puberty and in poor areas sex trafficking will increase. This will be covered under the mantra of marriage, which will in some instances increase polygamy. The percentage of women in leadership positions at all levels of governance will diminish and violence against women will increase under various guises.
8. Religious pluralism will be a thing of the past. More religious cleansing of the country’s ten percent Christian population will happen, through the expulsion of people from their villages and towns. Increasingly, the Islamists will mobilise people to “weed out” undesirables and present them for trial for insulting Islam and his prophet Mohamed.
9. Poverty will continue to grow, but Egypt will become an increasingly “sadaqa society”, to use Deniz Kandiyoti’s term. A sadaqa society is premised on the practice of Islamic charity where aid is distributed to the needy and faithful. The culture of the poor being the objects of religious-inspired benevolence rather than citizens with entitlements will become increasingly diffuse.
10. Independent media outlets (in particular satellite broadcasting) will be subject to increasing repression and some will be closed down. The freedom of the press will shrink considerably and in some instances, the government will not have to do anything about it – the Muslim Brotherhood militias will assume the responsibility of intimidating and threatening media professionals sufficiently such that they either quit or self-censor.
11 Finally – and this may possibly lead to a toppling of the regime – the Muslim Brotherhood will announce war with Israel. In order to do that, they could not (and would not) rely on the state of the Egyptian army. Resorting to other regional forces will be necessary and all kinds of military alliances will be made. This may seem unlikely now in view of Morsi’s brokering of the ceasefire in Gaza and his cosy relationship with the US government, but that will eventually change.
Mariz Tadros is a Research Fellow in the Participation, Power and Social Change research team at IDS.
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